A team of eight police officers heading from Northern Ireland to France for Euro 2016 will act as “cultural interpreters” to stop authorities overreacting to drunk but harmless fans.
Up to 50,000 supporters are expected to travel to the tournament to see the side compete in its first major tournament for 30 years, with group stage matches in Nice, Lyon and Paris.
Superintendent Nigel Goddard, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), who is leading the delegation, will be in touch with supporters’ groups every day of the event.
He said: “We have coined the phrase cultural interpreter, that’s how we see our role. Northern Ireland fans do not have any history of disorder and nor are we expecting our supporters to be involved in any disorder in France.
“However, they do have something of a reputation for liking a bit of a drink, sometimes if they get too much on board they can become somewhat anti-social, they think it’s good fun.
“One of the things we’ll be trying to do out there is do that interpreting, and explaining to our supporters to respect where they are and French culture and French traditions, and also working with the French officers to say that large bunches of jumping up and down people in green singing Sweet Caroline, that’s just normal fun behaviour. It’s not a precursor to any type of disorder.”
The negotiating technique has been used successfully in previous tournaments in Germany and Italy to avoid clashes with riot police.
During Euro 2016, the PSNI officers will help monitor fans’ behaviour in stadiums, on transport and at fan zones, passing information on to both French police and to Northern Irish fans.